Tokyo-How to make the Best of 3 Days

Tokyo-How to make the Best of 3 Days

Tokyo is one of the busiest metropolises in the world and there are many great things to see and do here. It offers unlimited shopping choices, entertainment, culture and dining options. For some, it can be overwhelming and a little intimidating just to see the sheer maddening crowd that occupy the space and the speed at which each one goes about their business. However, I was not intimidated or frustrated as I was pretty excited to see the things I don’t usually see in the Western world. Moreover, Tokyo was my last destination after being in Japan for almost six-months, which meant that I was going to make each moment matter, meaningful and memorable. 

In this article, you will find my 3-day itinerary on Tokyo. I consider this to be a perfect itinerary because I packed in most of the City, including a day trip to the outskirts of Tokyo – all in 72 hours!

Where is Tokyo

Tokyo – officially known as Tokyo Metropolis, it is one of the 47 Prefectures in Japan. It is Japan’s capital and is the world’s most populous metropolis. Tokyo Metropolis is located in the southern Kanto region. At 44 metres above sea level, you will find its geographical location as:

35.6762° N, 139.6503° E

3 days in Tokyo – A perfect itinerary

Besides skyscrapers, busy streets and the dizzying chaos, Tokyo offers a number of green spaces and parks within the city centre and also in the outskirts of the City. Whilst it will take over a week or two to cover the vast number of sights, I narrowed it down to experiencing the following as I only had 3 days to spend here. I regard my itinerary to be the best of 3 Days in Tokyo as I experienced the best of:

  1. The Western Tokyo (Shibuya and the Meiji Shrine),
  2. The Southern Tokyo (the man-made island, Odaiba, a ride across one of Japan’s landmark, the Rainbow Bridge, watch the sunset over Tokyo Bay)
  3. 3. A day-trip to the outskirts of Tokyo which included a trip to Mount Fuji – realising my childhood dream 

It was indeed a splendid three days 😊 and this is How I spent my 3-Days in Tokyo.

How to make the best of 3 days in Tokyo

1 | Day 1 in Tokyo

If you are flying in, land in Narita Airport, Tokyo. Check-into hotel. If you are going to spend 3 days here, best to schedule your arrival to the morning of Day 1 so that you will have at least the whole of the afternoon and the evening.

I travelled from Hiroshima arriving in Tokyo, 11:00. It is convenient to get a local taxi here, which I did and made it to the hotel by midday. Luckily, my room was ready, and I had time to freshen up and quickly head out for lunch and to begin my adventures for the day 😊 which was Shibuya and Odaiba.

Read >> Hiroshima City Travel

Day 1 Itinerary

Day 1 itinerary involved making the best of half a day or so and I visited

  • Shibuya;
  • Odaiba

1.1 | Shibuya

Shibuya is the heart of shopping and entertainment district in Tokyo and is the busiest metropolis in the world.

In Shibuya, you will find:

Center Gai

Center Gai is the centre for youth fashion and is the birthplace to many of Japan’s fashion brands. It is a busy pedestrian zone lined with boutiques and game centres. In the evenings, it is busy and alive with young people heading to nightclubs and bars or just hanging-about in groups.

Hachiko Station

Hachiko Station Exit is another popular spot in Shibuya which should not be missed for two reasons: 

Firstly, it is a large intersection! It has a large pedestrian crossing which is an attraction itself.

Shibuya crossing | How to make the best of 3 days in Tokyo
Shibuya Intersection Tokyo

This intersection is super busy and heavily illuminated with neon advertisements and giant video screens. When the light turns green, the crossing gets flooded with pedestrians and it is truly an experience to watch the flood of pedestrians this way. It can be overwhelming but just stand back and watch – personally, I had not seen anything like it;

Secondly, this is where the legend of Hachiko, began. Hachiko is the most loyal dog that faithfully came to the station each day to meet his owner. After about a year, the owner, Ueno, died suddenly because of cerebal haemorrhage. Hachiko did not know of Ueno’s death, so, for 9 years thereafter until his own passing, Hachiko would find his way to the station at the exact time to fetch his owner. To honour Hachiko, a statue is erected here. The statue is also a popular meeting point for both the young and old of Tokyo, and always a busy spot. 

Having witnessed Shibuya, and despite the constant flow of people, I can confidently say that it is one of the most colourful and busy districts that I have seen and I would highly recommend that you spend a few hours in an afternoon just to absorb the metropolis vibe. You can return in the evening for a meal and experience the night atmosphere.

However, I wanted to experience a different kind of evening atmosphere whilst here, so headed to Odaiba for a sunset across Tokyo Bay.

1.2 | Odaiba

Odaiba.rainbow.bridge. | how to make the best of 3 days in Tokyo
Rainbow Bridge, Odaiba, Tokyo

Odaiba is located in Southern Tokyo and it was easier to get to from Shibuya which was in Western Tokyo. Odaiba is a man-made island and is a popular tourist attraction that offers great quality accommodation, shopping, dining and leisure entertainment.

The popular island of Odaiba is connected to the rest of Tokyo by the famous Rainbow Bridge. The Rainbow Bridge is a two-storey structure and supports an expressway, a regular road, the Yurikamome train line plus pedestrian walkways on both sides.

Rainbow Bridge

The Rainbow Bridge is an iconic symbol of Tokyo Bay. It is an attraction in itself. The Bridge offers visitors spectacular views of Tokyo Harbour and the waterfront area from the Yurikamome elevated train as well as when you walk across the Bridge using the pedestrian walkways. Furthermore, it is especially beautiful when it is illuminated at night.

The Rainbow Bridge in Odaiba, Tokyo.
The iconic Rainbow Bridge, illuminated in Tokyo Bay, with the twinkling lights of Tokyo City in the backdrop.

Waterfront

I arrived here from Shibuya at about 6:30 pm and found a bench to sit. I was pleasantly surprised that there were not a lot of people around, perhaps because everyone had been here earlier in the day and are now having their dinner. For the most part, I felt that I had the space to myself and it was quite pleasant to sit on a bench and just feel the breeze against my skin, lost in my thoughts. It had been a very busy couple of days, being in Hiroshima and the journey from Hiroshima to Tokyo. I guess, sitting down was what I needed.

I saw the sun set across Tokyo Bay – it was beautiful! I did not take pictures of the sunset…I just wanted to be lost in the moment, reflect, just briefly, on all the beautiful experiences I have had in Japan. I was very fortunate and grateful to have had the opportunity.

Afterwards, I took many pictures of the Rainbow Bridge, and the twinkling lights of the skyscrapers across Tokyo Bay – one, which I share with you here. You need to be at Tokyo Bay to experience it – you will come away with many personal memories.

Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo
Twinkling lights of the City of Tokyo, illuminated Rainbow Bridge and cruise boats out to play .

From the Waterfront, I went to Palette Town, which is within walking distance. You cannot miss it as you can see the Ferries Wheel from a distance.

Palette Town

Palette Town is a huge complex of shopping and entertainment choices. Here are some of the highlights:

The Venus Fort Shopping Mall

The Venus Fort Shopping Mall is designed after a 18th century South European town. It has more than 100 shops of fashion boutiques, cafes and restaurants located over three-floors.

The Ferris Wheel
Giant ferries wheel, one of the largest in the world in Palette Town, Odaiba, Tokyo
Giant ferries wheel, one of the largest in the world in Palette Town, Odaiba, Tokyo

The Ferries Wheel in Palette Town is one of the world’s largest and stands at 115 metres high. It changes colours and it is truly a spectacular sight. Each of the cabin seats 6 people and it takes 15-minutes to do a full circle. This is another opportunity to enjoy spectacular views of Tokyo Bay and Odaiba.

There are other attractions here which may be of interest to you that you may want to visit, time permitting, of course.

  • The Toyota Mega Web;
  • Tokyo Leisureland

Travel tips and Useful information on Odaiba, Tokyo | Best ways to travel to Odaiba

How to get to Odaiba

The Yurikamome

  • The Yurikamome is an elevated train that is fully automated. It connects Shimbashi Station (Yamanote Line) with Odaiba and the Yurakucho Subway Line.
  • Trains depart every few minutes. A ride between Shimbashi and Daiba Station takes 15 minutes.
  • It costs 320 yen. If you ride the Yurikamome more than twice, a 1-day pass for 820 yen will be better value.
  • The Yurikamome is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
  • Yurikamome crosses the Rainbow Bridge to get to Odaiba. Sit or stand at the front of the train for impressive views of the harbour and Tokyo Bay.

The Rinkai Line

  • The Rinkai Line connects Osaki Station which is on the JR Yamanote Line with Shin-Kiba Station on the JR Keiyo Line. It stops at Tokyo Teleport and Kokusai Tenjijo underground stations at Odaiba.
  • There are some trains on the JR Saikyo Line which will continue on the Rinkai Line, providing direct connections between Shinjuku, Shibuya and Odaiba.
  • The journey from Shinjuku to Tokyo Teleport Station in Odaiba takes 25 minutes. It costs 500 yen.
  • Japan Rail Pass is not valid on the Rinkai Line.

By boat

  • Boat rides are operated between Odaiba Seaside Park and Hinode Pier by Tokyo Water Bus where there are connections to Asakusa
    – Journey time is 20 minutes.
    – Costs 480 Yen.
  • There are about 1to 2 boats per hour.
    – There are direct boats connecting Asakusa and Odaiba less frequently; Journey time for this is 50 minutes, and costs 1560 Yen.
  • There are boats from Hinode Pier to Palette Town and Tokyo Big Sight – one boat per hour daily except on Mondays and Tuesdays. The journey time is 25 to 35 minutes, and costs 410 Yen.

2 | Day 2 in Tokyo

Day trip to Mount Fuji

As my intention was to make the best of my 3-days in Tokyo, I decided to experience the outskirts of the City and to visit Japan’s tallest mountain and the most iconic landmark, Mount Fuji. Cannot come to Tokyo and not visit Mount Fuji, even if you don’t get to climb it! Correct? So, my itinerary for a day-trip included the following:

Day 2 Itinerary

  • Lake Kawaguchi;
  • Ride the KachiKachi Ropeway  for the best views of Mount Fuji;
  • Mount Fuji 5th Station 
  • Places to eat near Lake Kawaguchi

Lake Kawaguchi

For Lake Kawaguchi, your destination point is the Kawaguchi Station. Whilst there are many places to enjoy the incredible views of Mount Fuji, the views from Lake Kawaguchi, the gateway to Mount Fuji, is said to be one of the best.

Lake Kawaguchi itself is remarkably beautiful and picturesque and offers many activities such as fishing, hiking or cycling. The journey from Tokyo to Kawaguchi Station takes about 2 hours by road and this journey time is shortened when you ride the Shinkansen.

Kawaguchi Station

At Kawaguchi Station, ensure that you:

  • Pick-up a bus pass which you can buy for 1600 Yen which is a two-day pass, but it will still be worth your money even if you are here for a day. This bus pass gives you unlimited rides and is valid across all lines – red, green and blue;
  • Pick-up a tourist booklet from the Tourist Information Centre. It gives information to the surrounding sights and places to eat.
Tourist Information Centre at Kawaguchi Station, Tokyo
Tourist Information Centre at Kawaguchi Station, Tokyo | Image: georgina_daniel

All the buses stop at Kawaguchi Station and is conveniently located in front of the Tourist Information Centre. With the bus pass which gives you unlimited rides, you can follow the guide and make your own itinerary that suits you, so you can get to places around Lake Kawaguchi.

As for me, I wanted to just ride the Kachi Kachi Ropeway up to Tenjoyama Park to get the unobstructed view of Mount Fuji.

Kachi Kachi Ropeway

Kachi Kachi Ropeway – also known as Kawaguchiko Mt Tenjo Ropeway; also known as Mt Fuji Panoramic Ropeway.

A Day Trip from Tokyo: Lake Kawaguchi - a view from the Mt Kachi Kachi Ropeway
A Day Trip from Tokyo: Lake Kawaguchi – view from the Mt Kachi Kachi Ropeway | Image: georgina_daniel

The Kachi Kachi Ropeway Station is about 15 minutes from Kawaguchiko Station, either by a bus ride or by walking. If you are taking the bus, you will need to get off at Stop 11. I walked because I wanted to see a little of this quiet town.

Lake Kawaguchi is a popular destination amongst tourists and locals, so expect to find a queue at the station. You can purchase your tickets for the Ropeway at the machines and it is 800 Yen for a return journey. The ride up to Mount Tenjo is brief, just 3 minutes and runs every 10 minutes.

Mount Tenjo

Kachi Kachi Ropeway is an aerial lift located at 400 meters on the eastern edge of Lake Kawaguchiko and it climbs to Tenjo-Yama Park on Mount Kachi Kachi. There is an observation deck here which sits more than 1000 meters above sea level. It is from here that you have unobstructed panoramic view of Mount Fuji and of Lake Kawaguchiko below. Needless to say, that this is a great photo opportunity which should not be missed.

Try and get here for about 11:00 and by 13:00 so you can get the best of the peak of Mount Fuji. I was here in early June and the clouds were overhanging on the peak but I was not disappointed.  It was still a perfect view for me. 

A Day trip from Tokyo: Unobstructed view of Mount Fuji from the observation deck in Mt Tenjo
A Day trip from Tokyo: Unobstructed view of Mount Fuji from the observation deck in Mt Tenjo | Image: georgina_daniel

Kachi Kachi Yama – a Japanese folklore

While here, you will also note that the environment is kid-friendly and decorated with cartoon characters of animals. This is because this particular Mountain is popular for an  ancient folklore called “Kachi Kachi Yama” – it is a story about a rabbit who seeks revenge on a Japanese racoon by setting him on fire and then later drowning him in a river. Hard to understand the link to the relative kid-friendly environment to the gruesome nature of the folklore, but there you go, one cannot always understand “folklore”! 

Heading back down to Kachi Kachi Ropeway Station

Heading back down – you can either take the cable car back down or you may want to take the hiking trail down. If you choose to hike down, it will take about 40 minutes. Whichever way you choose to descend, it is time to think about lunch or a break for coffee and cookies.

I took the Ropeway back down.

A Walk by Lake Kawaguchi

I took a quick break, visited the popular pastry shop, Fujiyama Cookies.

Tokyo-How to make the Best of 3 days
Fujiyama Cookies, Lake Kawaguchi | Image georgina_daniel

Did a quick walk along the Lake shore and spent some time enjoying the waters and the fabulous views, before my next destination on my itinerary.

A Day trip from Tokyo: A walk along the shores of Lake Kawaguchi
A Day trip from Tokyo: A walk along the shores of Lake Kawaguchi | Image: georgina_daniel

*My next itinerary was Mount Fuji, 5th Station. To get the bus to the 5th Station, I needed to return to Kawaguchiko Station, Bus Stop 7. If you are planning on doing this as well, ensure you return to Kawaguchiko Station from the 5th Station by 5:30 p.m. so that you will not miss the last buses or trains to Tokyo.  

2.2 | Mount Fuji 5th Station

I boarded the bus from bus stop 7, which took me straight to 5th Station. The journey time is 50 minutes and costs 2100 Yen.

The 5th Station is situated half-way up Mount Fuji, a mid-point of the Yoshida Trail to Mount Fuji’s summit. For most climbers, this is their starting point. It was interesting to note the differing forests as you plod along uphill. One of my favourite is the one you see below, trees nicely lined up against the clouds, and there were moments when I felt that we were driving into the clouds.

Journey up to 5th Station, Mt Fuji where trees were lined against the clouds
Journey up to 5th Station, Mt Fuji where trees were lined against the clouds
Journey to 5th Station, Mount Fuji was like a ride into the clouds.
Journey to 5th Station, Mount Fuji was like a ride into the clouds.

The 5th Station

The 5th Station sits at 2300 meters (7546 feet) and offers stunning views, on a clear day, of Fuji 5 Lakes and Hakone National Park. However, you don’t really get a picture-perfect view of the peak of Mount Fuji because it is obstructed with low-hanging clouds or poor visibility. Mount Fuji certainly looks better from afar than close-up.

A day trip from Tokyo: A closer view of Mt Fuji from the 5th Station
A day trip from Tokyo: View of Mt Fuji from the 5th Station | Image: georgina_daniel

Things to do at the 5th Station

i | Komitake Shrine

In Japan, culture and tradition dictates that mountains are a spiritual spot. Legend has it that Mount Komitake was a mountain which existed before Mount Fuji, therefore a Shrine was erected here and has existed for over a thousand years.

Tokyo-how to make the best of Kamitake Shrine, Mt Fuji
5th Station Mount Fuji | Torii gate to the Komitake Shrine | Image: georgina_daniel

ii | Observation Deck

Round the back of the Shrine, there is an observation deck, which on a clear day, offers spectacular views of Lake Yamanaka and Fujiyoshida City.

iii | Shopping, souvenirs and restaurants

There are plenty of opportunities to shop for souvenirs. You can buy a postcard, write it out, buy stamps and post it immediately in a dedicated post-box. This was a popular activity amongst tourists here. There are some restaurants available if you feel like warming up, otherwise, there is a good selection of food-to-go. 

Day Trip from Tokyo: Entrance to the Cultural Heritage Centre, Mt Fuji 5th Station.
Day Trip from Tokyo: Entrance to the Cultural Heritage Centre, Mt Fuji 5th Station | Image: georgina_daniel
Day Trip from Tokyo: The Cultural Heritage Centre and shops - all in one spot at 5th Station, Mt Fuji
Day Trip from Tokyo: The Cultural Heritage Centre and shops – all in one spot at 5th Station, Mt Fuji | Image: georgina_daniel

iv | Photo opportunities

There are several spots for perfect photo shoots which should not be missed. These are around the observation deck, the Shrine and front of the heritage centre for example the infamous post box. 

v | Friendship

I was blessed to have met a group of Chinese tourists who quite simply made my day 😊. Friendly, fun and spirited. They did not know much English and I did not know much Chinese, but we conversed with plenty of hugs and laughter. Totally uplifting.

Mt Fuji - 5th Station
Some Chinese tourists who made my day!

I returned to Kawaguchiko Station from the 5th Station by 5:30 p.m. I had time for a meal and ensured I did not miss my return journey to Tokyo city.  

Places to eat near Lake Kawaguchi

Whether it was lunch you wanted to have or early dinner before returning to Tokyo, explore the area around Lake Kawaguchi for some authentic Japanese cuisines. Just be mindful of the time if you are catching the bus or the Shinkansen back to Tokyo.

Hoto Fudo

This was my first choice because I wanted to try the highly recommended Hoto noodles which is a local Yamanashi speciality – thick, chewy wheat noodles, simmered in rich miso broth with vegetables. You can opt to dine either on tatami mats or table seating.

A Day trip from Tokyo: Lake Kawaguchi area eateries. Hoto Fudo serves authentic Japanese dishes famous for a local Yamanashi speciality
Tokyo-how to make the best of 3 days: Lake Kawaguchi area eateries. Hoto Fudo serves authentic Japanese dishes famous for a local Yamanashi speciality | Image: georgina_daniel

You can locate HOTO FUDO at:

3631-2 Funatsu, Fujikawaguchiko-machi,

Minamitsuru-gun 401-0301,

Yamanashi Prefecture

+81 555-72-5560

Unfortunately, it was too busy on the evening of my visit. I opted for  my 2nd choice, and I was not disappointed.

Fuji Tempura Idaten

It was Tempura at its best!

Idaten, Lake Kawaguchiko - Best value tempura meal I'd ever tasted!
Idaten, Lake Kawaguchiko – Best value tempura meal I’d ever tasted!

Idaten offered:

  • Great choice and good value for money.
  • Vegan options available.
  • Convenience – just 10 minutes away from Lake Kawaguchi Visitor Centre.

You can locate Idaten at:

3486-4 Funatsu, Fujikawaguchiko-machi,

Minamitsuru-gun 401-0301

Yamanashi Prefecture

Opening hours: 11:00 to 22:00

Practical information on Lake Kawaguchi | Tokyo-How to make the best of 3 days

There are several day-trips available which you can book prior, either an organised bus tour, highway bus or you can take the Shinkansen. 

Returning to Tokyo – If you are on a bus tour or on the highway bus option, ensure that you are back at Kawaguchiko Station at least half an hour before your departure time. Japan’s transportation is punctual, and they do not wait for late comers. Also. returning to Tokyo in the evening may coincide with rush hour and the journey can be longer depending on traffic conditions on the highway – a typical 2 hour journey can take up to 3 hours.  

3 | Day 3 in Tokyo

Day 3 Itinerary

Tokyo is so vast and there is so much to see, do and experience but I had to make some choices. On my 3rd day in Tokyo, I chose to visit the Meiji Shrine.

3.1 | Meiji Shrine (明治神宮, Meiji Jingū)

Brief history of the Meiji Shrine

This famous Shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. The Shrine was completed in 1920, about 8 years after the Emperor passed and 6 years after the passing of the Empress. However, the original Shrine was destroyed during WWII, but it was rebuilt shortly afterwards. Emperor Meiji was the first emperor of modern Japan, who opened Japan to the West to join the world’s major powers.

The Meiji Shrine, Tokyo

Arriving here for 10:00 was a good start to the day. It was about a 10-minute walk from the station (see below on useful information).

Torii Gate of the Meiji Shrine. Tokyo

The 12 meter (40-foot) high Torii gate which marks the entrance to the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo.
The 12 meter (40-foot) high Torii gate which marks the entrance to the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo | Image: georgina_daniel

The entry to the Meiji Shrine’s ground is marked by a 12-metre high (40 feet) torii gate. The torii gate is a symbol to keep the outside world from the holy ground of the gods. When visiting, walk along the footpaths on the right and left.

Read >> Etiquette to observe at a Shinto shrine

The tranquility of the forest surrounding the Meiji Shrine, Tokyo

The Meiji Shrine is located amidst a tranquil forest of 120,000 trees. There are 365 different species planted here from different parts of Japan. I became immersed in the serenity of my surroundings.

The tranquillity of the forest that surrounds the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo.
The tranquillity of the forest that surrounds the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo. Walking through this luscious green…so quiet, so peaceful | Image: georgina_daniel

The Cleansing station at the Meiji Shrine, Tokyo

The sounds of the hustle and bustle of the City was behind me and the sight of the cleansing station got my attention. The cleansing station is basically a communal water tank where you cleanse your hands and mouth before making offerings of prayer at the main hall.

Etiquette at a Shinto shrine: Cleansing station at Meiji Shrine, Tokyo
Etiquette at a Shinto shrine: Cleansing station at Meiji Shrine, Tokyo | Image: georgina_daniel

There is a place where you could buy charms and write out your wishes and hang it on a tree or Ema.

Ema to write your wishes and hang them at the shrine
You can write your wishes and hang them here.

Walking through the beautiful grounds was a rewarding experience. It was a little busy already, but the grounds are so vast that often I felt that I was the only one here. Everyone was friendly, greeting each other with a smile or a nod and busy with cameras and posing – a pretty much relaxed atmosphere.

I visited the Meiji Shrine on a Sunday morning before my journey to Narita Airport later that day. I chose a Sunday visit because typically, on Sundays, Shinto weddings are known to take place. I was fortunate to witness one during my visit.

Bride & Groom at a Shinto Wedding in the Meiji Shrine, Tokyo
Bride & Groom at a Shinto Wedding in the Meiji Shrine, Tokyo | Image: georgina_daniel

The ceremony was very calm and gentle. The bride looking beautiful and in a constant smile. The groom seemed knowledgeable of the steps in the ceremony. It was good to have witnessed this.

The Inner Garden

The Inner Garden covers a large section, approximately 83,000 square metres of the Shrine’s grounds and is situated in the southern section, between the main shrine buildings and Yoyogi Park. There is an entrance fee of 500 Yen.

It is worth paying the fee as it is a beautiful, scenic forest that is paved with stone pathways. There is a traditional tea house to take a break from your walk and the South Pond, where it is filled with turtles and colourful koi. If your trip takes you here in June, you will be amazed with the beautiful irises which are in full bloom here.

Georgina suggests: When you visit the Meiji Shrine, I would highly recommend that you visit the power spot of Kiyomasa’s Well and experience the energy within the tranquillity of the forest.

Travel tips and practical information on Meiji Shrine, Tokyo

Main Shrine & Grounds:

            Opening hours: From sunrise to sunset – No closing days.

            Admission: Free

Inner Garden

Opening hours: From 09:00 to 16:30 – Last admission is 16:00

            Admission: 500 Yen

Getting here:

– 5-minute walk from the Meiji-jingu-mae Station on the Chiyoda and Fukutoshin Subway Line;

– 5-minute walk from the Harajuku Station on the JR Yamanote Line.

Final say on the Meiji Shrine

My visit to the Meiji Shrine was one which I thoroughly enjoyed and a destination which I would highly recommend to visitors to Japan. If you do visit the Meiji Shrine, please return here and share your experiences.  

Conclusion on Tokyo-how to make the best of 3 days

Although my time in Tokyo was very short, it was indeed the best of 3 days. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. It was at times tough because I tried to pack in too many things but in retrospect, I am glad that I did.

I remember the sheer crowd at Shibuya and the wonderful, delicious choices of ramen where the fragrance just oozes along the streets, and of course the best light and crispy tempura that I had ever tasty at Lake Kawaguchi. The day trip to Mount Fuji – achieving my childhood dream and finally seeing the Meiji Shrine that speaks volume of the Japanese history, tradition and culture.

It was truly an unforgettable, memorable and awesome experience that concluded almost 6 months of my stay in Japan.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this article as much, if not more as I have enjoyed writing them. My sincere wish is for the information on Tokyo-how to make the best of 3 days is valuable to you in planning your itinerary to Tokyo. Do share your thoughts in comments below and you are always welcome to contact me for further information.

>> Take a look at the 6-step guide to Book your Trip for a stress free vacation.

Happy adventures in Tokyo, however you choose to explore this grand city!

Georgina xx

February 2021, Update


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A detailed travel guide on how to make the best of 3 days in Tokyo - a perfect itinerary. via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/A detailed travel guide on how to make the best of 3 days in Tokyo - a perfect itinerary. via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/

Nara – 4 Unforgettable Experiences in 1 Day

Nara – 4 Unforgettable Experiences in 1 Day

UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES

Where is Nara?

Nara is the capital city of Nara Prefecture in the Kansai region of Japan. The city sits on the northern part of Nara Prefecture and borders with Kyoto Prefecture.

Nara Park, Historical Temples and Shrines (UNESCO World Heritage) in Nara

My visit to Nara was an unforgettable one! Right from the start of my journey from Kyoto, the rain that so gracefully showered intermittently throughout the day and the highlights of Nara’s iconic temples, stone lanterns, sacred deer…the list goes on. Allow me to share some of these experiences with you, hoping to inspire you to visit Nara, home to eight UNESCO World Heritage sites.

A brief background to Nara

Next to Kyoto, Nara is a city that is rich in cultural legacy of temples, shrines and gardens. It is easy to get to, less than an hour train journey from either Osaka or Kyoto (see useful information below on how to get here). The city makes a nice destination for a day trip, for individuals, couples and families. The eight UNESCO World Heritage sites can fill a day’s itinerary of any visitor here. The eight sites collectively form “Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara” – these are: Todaiji, Saidaiji, Kofukuji, Kasuga Shrine, Gangoji, Yakushiji, Toshodaiji, Heijo Palace and Kasugayama Primeval Forest.

I could not visit all the Sites because it rained for most of the day on my visit. I spent a good 6 hours in Nara City, taking a stroll through the Park, feeding deer and visiting the most iconic temples within the Park which I would highly recommend. I would also recommend a walk around the City.  You can use my list here and follow my walk-route or you could buy A Complete Guide to Nara: A Photographic Journey to plan a comprehensive visit to Nara City.

Here are the places I visited.

1 | Nara Park in Nara

Nara Park in Nara is a park which spans over 660 hectares and it is a “Must See” for any visitor to this iconic and historical City. Practically everyone comes here because it is through this Park that you access other historical and UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Nara Park is a public park, situated in Central Nara, at the foot of Mount Wakakusa. The Park was established in 1880 and is the oldest park in Japan.

Nara Park in Nara City is a beautiful Park of 660 hectares at the foot of Mt. Wakakusa is home to 1200 free-roaming deer
Nara Park in Nara City is a beautiful Park of 660 hectares at the foot of Mt. Wakakusa and is home to 1200 free-roaming deer | Nara Park | Nara | Image: georgina_daniel

Nara Park is home to nearly 1200 free-roaming deer and they are a symbol of the City. In Shinto, deer are considered to be messengers of gods and they have been designated as national treasure.  The deer are surprisingly tame and people-friendly. It was my first experience to be so close and personal to one.

However, they can get aggressive if they think that you are going to feed them, but really, they are nothing to worry about. Some deer will bow, as a gesture, asking to be fed. You can feed them with wafer-like deer crackers, shika senbei which are sold around the Park for about 100 Yen.

The deer in Nara Park are tame and people friendly. You can pat them, feed them and there's nothing to worry about.
The deer in Nara Park are tame and people friendly. You can pat them, feed them and there’s nothing to worry about.

It is nice to watch the carefree life of these sacred messengers who are no trouble at all. There is so much more to Nara Park which you may wish to explore. If you wish to Nara Like a Local, by using a local tour guide, you can do that also:

The iconic temples and shrines in Nara

The iconic temples and shrines which I visited are all located within Nara Park.

2 | Todaiji Temple (東大寺) in Nara is the #1 historical landmark to visit

Todaiji means “Great Eastern Temple” and is a landmark of Nara. It was one of the Seven Great Temples of Japan. Todaiji is situated in the northern part of Nara Park.

Todaiji Temple in Nara is an iconic landmark which should not be missed
Todaiji Temple in Nara is an iconic landmark which should not be missed | Nara | Image: georgina_daniel

Todaiji Temple is one of Japan’s most historic of temples which was originally constructed in 752, during the Nara period, by Emperor Shomu to bring peace to the country. It was the head temple of all Buddhist temples in Japan and played an influential role in government affairs at that time. However, it was destroyed by fire, twice, in 1180 and in 1567. The present structure was constructed during the Edo period under the direction of monk Kokei.

The approach to Todaiji Temple is through the Nandaimon, the Great Southern Gate.
The approach to Todaiji Temple is through the Nandaimon, the Great Southern Gate | Nara | Image: georgina_daniel

The entrance to Todaiji Temple is through a large wooden gate. The gate is guarded by two fierce looking Kon-go-Rikishi guardian statutes representing the Nio Guardian Kings are designated as national treasures.

2.1 | Todaiji Hall at Todaiji Temple

The highlight of my visit to Todaiji Temple was the Todaiji Hall or the Main Hall (kondo) also known as Daibutsuden (Great Buddha Hall 大仏殿). The Daibutsuden is the largest wooden building in the world and was reconstructed in 1692. Today it represents only two-thirds of the original temple hall’s size.

The Daibutsuden hall is home to 15m (50ft) high seated Buddha with two Bodhisattvas on each side. The sheer size of it when up close will take your breath away!

15 metre (50 feet) tall statute of Buddha in the main hall of Todaiji Temple
15 metre (50 feet) tall statute of Buddha in the main hall of Todaiji Temple | Nara | Image: georgina_daniel

Walking along with the crowd inside of the hall, there are some Buddhist statutes and models of old buildings. What caught my attention and many around me was a pillar with a hole in its base. I saw children and a few adults going through one end and coming through the other. The hole is said to be the same size as the Daibutsu’s nostrils and that those who can go through this opening will receive enlightenment in their next life. It was interesting and fun to watch!

The main hall in the Todaiji Temple-The hole at the bottom of this pillar is said to be as big as the nostrils of the 15m high Buddha
The main hall in the Todaiji Temple-The hole at the bottom of this pillar is said to be as big as the nostrils of the 15m high Buddha | Nara Park | Nara | Image: georgina_daniel

If you are visiting Nara, Todaiji Temple is a “must see”.  There is not just the Daibutsuden Hall where the 50ft Buddha sits but also because of its vast, spacious grounds which are home to several other buildings. There are Todaiji Musuem, Nigatsudo Hall and the Hokkedo Hall – all worth a visit and good value for money.

Part of the Todaiji Temple grounds in Nara where the visitor centre is for you to purchase souvenirs and crafts
Part of the Todaiji Temple grounds in Nara. The view is from the visitor centre where you could purchase souvenirs and crafts | Nara | Image: georgina_daniel

2.2 | Travel tips and Useful information on Todaiji Temple, Nara

Opening times and Admission

Daibutsuden Hall

600 Yen

Opened all year round

Opening times: 07:30 – 17:30 (Apr – Oct)

08:00 – 17:00 (Nov – Mar)

Todaiji’s grounds are spacious and is also home to several other buildings such as the Daibutsuden Hall, Todaiji Museum, Nigatsudo Hall,

Todaiji Museum

600 Yen

Opens from 09:30 to 16:00

** I did a combined ticket for Daibutsuden Hall and the Museum for 1000 Yen.

Nigatsudo Hall

Free admission

Stays open

Hokkedo Hall

600 Yen

Same opening hours as Daibutsuden

Kaidanin Temple

600 Yen

Same opening hours as Daibutsuden

3 | Kasuga Taisha (春日大社) Shrine, Nara

Following on from Todaiji Temple, you would probably want to make your way, as I, to Kasuga Taisha (春日大社) shrine. It is still within Nara, on the opposite side of Nara Park to Todaiji Temple, across the road (you can see it on the map, below on useful information).

Kasuga Taisha shrine is dedicated to the deity that protects the city. Legend has it that Takemikazuchi no Mikoto, travelled from Ibaraki, northern Japan on a white deer all the way to Mount Mikasa, a holy mountain, to reside on its summit for the prosperity and happiness of the nation. She is one of the four deities enshrined here since the shrine was built in 768 AD by the Fujiwara clan.

3.1 | The walk through the forest of Nara Park

The walk along the footpath in the atmospheric forest is serene and peaceful, lined with hundreds and hundreds of stone lanterns and many nestled in the woods. You can feel the quietness as you approach the impressive Shinto shrine with cute little sacred deer peeking from behind these stone lanterns every so often where you will want to stop and take some pictures.

Walking through Nara Park to Kasuga Taisha shrine, there are lanterns and peeking deer
Walking through Nara Park to Kasuga Taisha shrine, there are lanterns and peeking deer 🙂 | Nara | Image: georgina_daniel
Stone lanterns line the path in Nara Park, Nara
There are these beautiful stone lanterns all the way up the path to the Kasuga Taisha shrine in Nara. Could you imagine the simple subtle beauty of these glimmering light when lit up at dusk. Nara Park, Nara | Image: georgina_daniel

Near the entrance to Kasuga Shrine, there is a Museum dedicated to the most impressive and important swords, suits of armour and various other items dedicated to the deities since the 8th century.

3.2 | Lanterns at Kasuga Taisha

Hanging lanterns all around the wall_Kasuga Taisha, Nara
Hanging lanterns all around the wall_Kasuga Taisha, Nara | Image: georgina_daniel

Kasuga Taisha is popular for its many stone lanterns that lines the path, and many more in the woods and bronze lanterns which you will see hanging along the wall of the buildings all throughout the shrine. The North cloister where the Fujinami-no-ya hall is situated, behind the main shrine is filled with hundreds of lanterns.

Hanging golden lanterns all around the walls at Kasuga Taisha, Nara
Hanging golden lanterns all around the walls at Kasuga Taisha, Nara | Image: georgina_daniel

These lanterns are lit twice a year, in February and August during the Mantoro Festival. It gives you a certain feel when you just imagine, the beauty of the paths through the forest and the lanterns hung throughout the shrine when these 3000 flickering lanterns are lit up from sunset. The beautiful contrast of the shrine itself, the bright orange red, with white walls and the hinoki cypress bark roof as against the green of the ancient woods just paints a serene beauty.

I had never seen so many variations of lanterns in one place that were also well maintained.

Timeless Travel Steps suggests: Visit the Kasuga Taisha Shrine on 3rd February for their annual magical night by lantern night where 3,000 stone and brass lanterns are lit with candle light – just like how it was 1,000 years ago.

3.3 | Wisteria at Kasuga Taisha

Kasuga Taisha shrine in Nara is surrounded by beautiful wisteria trees. Perfect time to catch these in bloom is between end of April and early May
Kasuga Taisha shrine in Nara is surrounded by beautiful wisteria trees. Perfect time to catch these in bloom is between end of April and early May | Image: georgina_daniel

Kasuga Taisha is surrounded by and is famous for about 200 of its wisteria trees which blooms from late April to early May. I visited Nara late April, and it was a perfect time to witness the beauty of these blooms.

You can find some of these around the shrine, but a large part of the Shinen Manyo Botanical Garden which is close-by to the Shrine is dedicated to these beautiful flowers. The Garden is also home to about 250 kinds of plants, described in Manyoshu. Manyoshu is a collection of Japan’s oldest poems which dates to the Nara period.

3.4 | Kasugayama Primeval Forest

From Kasuga Taisha, there are paths leading through the forest park to Mount Wakakusa. Behind the Kasuga Taisha shrine is the Kasugayama Primeval Forest, a sacred area which is closed to the public and remained untouched for over 1000 years. Both the Kasuga Taisha and the Kasugayama Primeval Forest are jointly designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

3.5 | Travel tips and Useful information on Kasuga Taisha Shrine

Getting here to Kasuga Taisha Shrine:

If you are planning to walk, like I did, from Todaiji Temple to Kasuga Taisha Shrine, then you will  probably do the following route:

Walking route from Todaiji Temple to Kasuga Taisha Shrine, Nara Park, Nara
Walking route from Todaiji Temple to Kasuga Taisha Shrine, Nara Park, Nara

If you walk from Kintetsu Nara Station (more on this below) it will take about 35 to 40 minutes and your route will probably look like this:

Walking route from Kintetsu Nara Station to Kasuga Taisha Shrine, Nara
Walking route from Kintetsu Nara Station to Kasuga Taisha Shrine, Nara

 Opening times and admission:

Kasuga Taisha

Opening times: Apr-Sept – 06:00 – 18:00

Oct-Mar – 06:30 – 17:00

Admission fee: Free [outer area]

500 Yen [inner area]

Kasuga Taisha Museum

Opening times: 10:00 – 17:00 [last admission: 16:30]

Admission fee: 500 Yen

Botanical Garden

Opening times: Mar – Nov – 09:00 – 17:00 [last admission: 16:30]

Dec – Feb – 09:00 – 16:30 [last admission: 16:00]

Admission fee: 500 Yen

4. Kofukuji (興福寺) Temple in Nara

From Kasuga Taisha, it was another pleasant walk through Nara Park, to the high street and to Kofukuji (興福寺) Temple in Nara which is the fourth on my list of unforgettable experience. By now the rain had stopped and the freshness in the air was a welcome.

Kofukuji (興福寺) Temple is a Buddhist Temple. It was one of the Seven Powerful Great Temples, alongside Todaiji in Nara. It is now listed as one of the eight UNESCO World Heritage site in Nara. This five-storey pagoda stands at 50 metres and is the second largest wooden pagoda in Japan as well as being Japan’s second tallest, about 7 metres less than the five-storey pagoda at Toji Temple, Kyoto. It was first constructed in 730 AD and rebuilt in 1426.

5 storey pagoda at Kofukuji Temple, Nara
5 storey pagoda at Kofukuji Temple, Nara – see how tiny people are as against the pagoda! | Nara, Japan | Image: georgina_daniel

The highlight of visiting Kofukuji, which is both a landmark and symbol of Nara, is its National Treasure Museum. The Museum is home to the temple’s great art collection and a Must for lovers of Buddhist Art.

It was rather nice to walk around the temple grounds after the rain. Less crowd, no rush and gentle freshness to the air. It was quiet, peaceful and serene.

4.1 | Travel tips and Useful information on Kofukuji Temple

Opening times and admission

FREE to walk around the temple grounds

Entry to the museum – 700 Yen.

Opening hours: 09:00 – 17:00

5 | Travel tips on Nara, Japan | How to travel to Nara

Nara is conveniently located and can be accessed from Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo and Hiroshima or from any part of Japan’s mainline train stations.

Nara is served by 2 lines – the JR line and the Kintetsu Line. Both stations are centrally located and easy access to buses. You can check narastation.com  for more information

I used Kintetsu Nara Station as I travelled from Kyoto.

Below is a bird’s eye view of Nara Park and the location of the historic places I visited, Todaiji Temple, Kasuga Taisha Shrine and Kofukuji Temple.

A bird’s eye view of Nara Park and the location of the historic places I visited, Todaiji Temple, Kasuga Taisha Shrine and Kofukuji Temple.in Nara
A bird’s eye view of Nara Park and the location of the historic places I visited, Todaiji Temple, Kasuga Taisha Shrine and Kofukuji Temple.in Nara

Ways to experience Nara, Japan

Nara offers many opportunities for visitors to indulge in its historical and cultural heritage. Join a cultural heritage tour and learn all about this historic city from a knowledgeable guide. Peruse all selected experiences on Nara > 6 ways to experience Nara, Japan

My conclusion on visiting Nara for 1 day

Having read this so far, I am sure you can tell that I thoroughly enjoyed my day in Nara despite the rain. Although it was crowded, Todaiji Temple was an exceptional experience with a little humour of seeing kids going through the “nostril”. Walking through the forest was relaxing. Visiting the Kasuga Taisha Shrine surrounded by stone lanterns and the beautiful wisteria was positively an indescribable experience which I would strongly encourage every visitor to Japan to have. Even better, if you can visit the Kasuga Taisha Shrine on February 3rd to see it illuminated with 3,000 lanterns in the night. You can imagine the awesomeness of this event.

As a resource to aid your travel plans, take a look at the 25 very important tips on this checklist and the 6 – step guide to booking your trip – All to ensure a stress free vacation.

As always, I am here to answer any of your questions – contact me via the Contact Form for a speedy response.


Is this post valuable to you in planning your visits to Nara? If so please let me know in comments below or via Contact Form, I would love to hear from you.

Have a wonderful time discovering this ancient land !

February 2021, Update


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Lake Biwa and What You Need to Know

Lake Biwa | An Introduction

Enjoy an evening of colours and sunset at one of the largest water fountains in the world

Lake Biwa is located in Shiga Prefecture, on the northeast of Kyoto. I visited this Lake on the same day I visited Mt Hiei. It was convenient to do so from Mt Hiei by taking the Sakamoto Cable car.

Cycle route around Lake Biwa – Google maps

How to get to Lake Biwa

Getting to Lake Biwa via Sakamoto Cable Car took us to the Shiga side of the base of Mt Hiei, to Sakamoto Station. The track downhill was two-kilometres and took 11 minutes. The journey proved to be well-worth the money as it offered an awesome view directly over Lake Biwa and an opportunity to stroll through the town of Sakamoto.

View of Lake Biwa from the cable car ride down to Sakamoto
View of Lake Biwa from the cable car ride down to Sakamoto | Image: georgina_daniel

My walk from Sakamoto Station through the town of Sakamoto was quiet and pleasant. There were a number of beautiful spots that offered photo opportunities.

The walk from Sakamoto Station through the town of Sakamoto
Some views along our walk from Sakamoto Station to Biwako | Image: georgina_daniel

Lake Biwa Flower Fountain

The Flower Fountain is one of the world’s largest fountain which is about 400 meters long horizontally and it streams high into the air at 40 metres.

This is by far one of the most beautiful attraction here which you must not miss if you are in this area. With the sun setting in the horizon, the changing colours of the Fountain and the cruise ships sailing in the distance makes this a memorable experience. It certainly was for me because I needed to just relax for a while and take in the atmosphere before heading back home.

As the largest freshwater lake in Japan, it is a breeding ground for freshwater fish such as trout and is home to at least 46 native species and sub-species in the Lake. It serves as a reservoir to Kyoto and Otsu and supplies 15 million residents with drinking water in the Kansai region.

Lake Biwa Flower Fountain, Shiga Prefecture
Biwako Flower Fountain, Shiga Prefecture Image: georgina_daniel
The Flower Fountain streams up high into air at 40 metres.
Biwako Flower Fountain streams up high into air at 40 metres.| Image: georgina_daniel

My visit here was very brief but I did fulfil my intention to capture the sunset and relax after my long day of mountain exploring.

Activities at Lake Biwa

Although I spent only a couple of hours here, Lake Biwa is a destination that warrants at least half a day. If you can fit in a longer time, you will be pleasantly surprised at the various ways to enjoy this Lake. As the largest freshwater lake in Japan in the Shiga Prefecture, you can enjoy cruises to the southern end of the Lake. There are many beach activities such as zip line or water sliding. You will also find that the area offer many popular holiday resorts which you can stay at.

A Cruise Boat in the Distance at Lake Biwa, Shiga Prefecture
A Cruise Boat in the Distance at Lake Biwa, Shiga Prefecture | Image: georgina_daniel
A cruise boat taking-off to the southern end of the Lake
A cruise boat taking-off to the southern end of Lake Biwa | Image: georgina_daniel

There are historic sites such as the Enryaku-ji Temple in Mount Hiei and Hikone Castle.

Enryakuji Temple at Mount Hiei
Enryakuji Temple and buildings in Mount Hiei, Kyoto
Like other temples, there are shops for souvenirs in Mount Hiei
As with any visits to temples, you would always find shops for souvenirs, light refreshments and incense. You will find that Mount Hiei offer a great selection of these.
Buildings and Temples dotted around the forest in Mount Hiei
Buildings and Temples dotted around the forest in Mount Hiei. Sometimes to pray and sometimes a place to meditate.

Travel tips and Useful information

4 ways to travel to Lake Biwa

Otsu:

From Kyoto station take the JR Biwako line (about 10 min), exit at Hama-Otsu station (about 20 minutes from Sanjo-Keihan railway station)

Enryakuji Temple:

From Otsu Keihanzeze station, take the Keihan line, for Sakamoto. From Sakamoto, take the cable car to the temple.

Hikone: 

From Kyoto to Hikone, it is about 50 minutes journey and is the fastest.

If you have the JR Pass, you can take the Shinkansen to Maibara, about 20 minutes journey and then back to Hikone by JR Biwako which is about 5 minutes.

Omihachiman:

Take the JR Biwako line from Kyoto which is about 35 minutes journey.

My Conclusion

This is a destination that warrants more than a couple of hours. If you are in Kyoto and have the time, visit this lake which is the largest freshwater lake in Japan. For a whole day experience, you can also explore the surrounding areas. For ideas and inspiration to experience Lake Biwa and Kyoto, head over to “More than one way to experience Kyoto”

Ask me any questions you may have regarding booking your trip to Japan. You may wish to take a look at the 6-step guidelines to a stress free vacation and a full guide to resources for a memorable experience.

6 steps to stress free vacation
Resources

You may like to read more on Japan also

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Hiroshima + Miyajima
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Is this post valuable to you in planning your visits to Lake Biwa? If so please let me know in comments below or via Contact Form, I would love to hear from you.

I wish you a splendid visit to Lake Biwa!

February 2021, Update


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Lake Biwa Kyoto
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An easy guide to an evening of colours and sunset at the largest freshwater lake in Japan - also home to one of the largest fountains in the world. via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/An easy guide to an evening of colours and sunset at the largest freshwater lake in Japan - also home to one of the largest fountains in the world. via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/

Mount Hiei – A fascinating Japan experience not to be missed

Mount Hiei | A fascinating Japan experience not to be missed

Explore the mountains where humans become superhumans,

and be amazed with the indescribable natural beauty and serenity that exists

among the towering cedar trees here.

Georgina

Mount Hiei – The holy mountain in Kyoto

Mount Hiei, regarded as the holy mountain in Kyoto makes a nice little escape from the maddening crowds of other Kyoto’s main attraction. What makes this destination fascinating is the quietness and peacefulness that exists here that transports you to a totally different world of complete zen! All of it within only a stone’s throw away from the chaos of the city below. This is a mountain where history and modernity meets in relation to Japanese culture and religion. A sacred mountain believed to turn ordinary humans in pursuit of enlightenment to super beings for their endurance and perseverance. A truly fascinating Japan experience not to be missed when visiting Kyoto.

As for me, walking in the dense forest of towering cedar trees, somehow made me feel good. I was totally amazed with the unspoiled natural beauty and serenity that exists here which is indescribable. There were moments when I was the only one among the trees. Navigation around the footpaths were convenient and pleasant. The area is well tended and has clear footpaths leading to various buildings in the mountain.

The path leading to Todo tells the story of Buddhism and its leaders
The path leading to Todo tells the story of Buddhism and its leaders | Image: georgina_daniel
Mount Hiei and the temples around the mountain.
Mount Hiei and the temples around the mountain. There are several with walking/hiking routes which one could follow easily | Image: georgina_daniel

Why is Mt Hiei known as Sacred Mountain

Mount Hiei is popularly known as a sacred mountain because it is home to the “Marathon Monks” often regarded as “super humans”. These super human “Marathon Monks” uphold centuries old traditions – they preserve, observe and practise them today and in many ways as exactly as was practised many centuries ago. This mountain is one of the few places in Japan where tradition and history exists alongside a modern world.

I have uploaded a short video below for you to watch to get an idea of why the monks of Mount Hiei are called “Marathon Monks”

Besides being popularly known as a sacred mountain and the infamous “marathon monks” associated to this mountain, there are many other reasons why you should visit this beautiful part of Kyoto. I have listed a few, about 6 of them here:

1 | Mount Hiei is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site

The whole of Mount Hiei is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the banner of “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto”. The mountain is home to Enryakuji Temple where the Tendai sect of Japanese Buddhism was founded in 788. It was once, home to the “warrior monks” – currently home to the “marathon monks.”

2 | The rich history of Mount Hiei

The temples in Mount Hiei were the guardians of ancient Kyoto. One of the most important monasteries in Japanese history was established here over 1200 years ago.

The Enryakuji Temple, the heart of the Tendai sect of Japanese Buddhism was founded here in 788 by Saicho.

Saicho was a monk from China. He introduced the Tendai sect Buddhism in Japan and established the headquarters in the mountains of Hiei. The mountain became the holy mountain with 3,000 scattered temples and thousands of monks. In Japan’s history, Enryakuji was the home to the “warrior monks” who raided and terrified Kyoto City.

In order to remove all rivals and to unite the country, Shogun Nobunaga defeated these warrior monks and burned the Enryakuji complex down in 1571. The Enryakuji Temple was thereafter rebuilt during the Edo period and became the headquarters of the Tendai sect and remains as such till today.

3 | The “Marathon Monks” of Mount Hiei

Although the warrior monks are long gone, legend has it that Mount Hiei became home to another breed of monks called, the “marathon monks” who continue to remain here till today. “Marathon monks” are called as such because they are regarded as “super humans” to have to undergo a challenge known as “sennichi kaihogyo” – a “one-thousand day go around the peaks training” in search of enlightenment in the here and now.

3.1 | The One-thousand-day Challenge

The monks who set out on these one-thousand-day challenge will occasionally complete  it. The one-thousand-day challenge is a seven-year training period.

Initially, the Buddhist spiritual athlete or “gyoja” will begin a 100-day stretch of training period and the “gyoja” must cover 52.5 miles daily. During this 100-day training, the “gyoja” must decide whether he wants to take on the challenge of the remaining 900 days. To complete the challenge will be a test of his endurance, perseverance and both physical and mental strength because of his death-defying fasts, his vegetarian training diet and his handmade straw running shoes.

The “gyoja” dresses in pure white kimono and carries with him a sheathed knife. According to the Tendai Buddhist tradition, if he does not complete his prescribed marathon – the walks, runs and tasks, he must take his own life. In addition, he also carries a small bag which consists of his secret holy book which will guide him on his journey and the 250 prayer-stops he must make. Some will be to honour monks of the past who died by suicide because they failed on their challenge. The bag will also hold some candles, matches, a small bag of food offerings to the deities, and a rosary. The “gyoja” will use handmade straw sandals on his bare feet and carry a straw raincoat and paper lantern.

As you can imagine, to complete this challenge is truly a test of endurance, perseverance and of both physical and mental strengths. It is no surprise that only 46 monks have completed this one-thousand-day challenge since 1885.

3.2 | Find out more on Marathon Monks

If you are interested to find out more on the “Marathon Monks”, you can purchase “The Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei” by John Stevens (2013) for only £13.14 or much cheaper for a used copy from Amazon. To purchase your copy, click on the link below.

Watch this video on the monk who started his one-thousand-day journey. It gives an idea of what is expected of them to fulfil their journey with the use of just the straw sandals, paper lantern and a straw raincoat.

Watch Marathon Monks of Mt Hiei

Legendary seven year test of endurance that only a remarkable few have ever accomplished

4 | The historical Enryakuji Temple in Mount Hiei

Entrance to Enryakuji Temple Mount Hiei
Entrance to Enryakuji Temple, Mount Hiei, Kyoto | Image: georgina_daniel
Enryakuji Temple in Mount Hiei
Part of the Enryakuji Temple in Mount Hiei | Image: georgina_daniel
Enryakuji Temple at Mount Hiei
Part of the buildings forming Enryakuji Temple and buildings in Mount Hiei, Kyoto | Image: georgina_daniel

As mentioned above, the Enryakuji Temple in Mount Hiei is the HQ of the Tendai sect of Japanese Buddhism. It is spread over three areas:

  • Todo > on the East;
  • Saito > on the West;
  • Yokawa > a few kilometres north of Todo and Saito
There are clear sign-posting available to get you to the temples in Mount Hiei.
There are clear sign-posting available to get you to the temples in Mount Hiei.

All three sites are linked by hiking trails that will take you through the woods and tall cedar trees.

4.1 | Todo, on the East of Mount Hiei

Todo is the main area and is the heart of Enryakuji with its three-storey pagoda where the monastery was originally built in the 8th century.

The main buildings are also located here which includes the main hall, “Kom pon Chudo” and the Amida Hall which was added to the complex in 1937.

Mount Hiei | Like other temples, there are shops for souvenirs in Mount Hiei
As with any visits to temples, you would always find shops for souvenirs, light refreshments and incense. You will find that Mount Hiei offer a great selection of these.

As Todo is the main area with many buildings, there were a number of tourists here. You can generally follow the crowd to get to the major attractions or you can explore on your own. I felt safe to do so, and I found the trails were well-signposted.

Enryakuji Temple and buildings in Mount Hiei, Kyoto

Enryakuji Temple and buildings in Mount Hiei, Kyoto
Enryakuji Temple and buildings in Mount Hiei, Kyoto
Enryakuji Temple and buildings in Mount Hiei, Kyoto
Enryakuji Temple and buildings in Mount Hiei, Kyoto | Image: georgina_daniel

A nice, quiet walk through the forest trail connects the Todo area to Saito.

4.2 | Saito on the West of Mount Hiei

Saito on the West houses many old buildings and amongst it is the mausoleum of the founder of Enryakuji Temple, Saicho. You will also find the Shaka Hall, the oldest building on the mountain.

Not too far off, you will find the Ninai Hall, where two halls are connected together by a central corridor.

Saito in Mount Hiei: Ninai Hall - Two buildings connected by a small passage
Saito in Mount Hiei: Ninai Hall – Two buildings connected by a small passage

4.3 | Yokawa

Yokawa is on the north of Todo and Saito and is a little further. It is connected by a trail through woods. If you are feeling adventurous, I would urge you to make this trail through the woods, where you can admire the Chudo main hall which is built on wooden platform.

5 | A beautiful walk in the forest of Mount Hiei

As I walked along these trails, in the midst of lush greenery, I came come across many small buildings and temples, way-shrines tucked away in the middle of the forest in between the lush greens, bell towers, lecture halls and places for meditation. All these buildings are well-connected with stone-paved steps and trails with stone-lanterns along the way.

Stone lanterns along the trail, paves the way to explore what's beyond and in the forest.
Stone lanterns along the trail, paves the way to explore what’s beyond and in the forest. These are easily accessible, walkable trails.
Stone-paved steps connects the buildings in Enryakuji Temple. Easily walkable.
Mount Hiei: Stone-paved steps connects the buildings in Enryakuji Temple. Easily walkable.

One can imagine the beauty of the lighted lanterns in the evening or when in the dark – perhaps it is to light the path the monks once took before they entered the deep forest. It was pretty.

A walk in the forest of Mount Hiei will lead you to discover buildings and temples dotted around – sometimes to pray and sometimes a place to meditate.

Buildings and Temples dotted around the forest in Mount Hiei. Sometimes to pray and sometimes a place to meditate.
Buildings and Temples dotted around the forest in Mount Hiei. Sometimes to pray and sometimes a place to meditate.
Buildings and Temples dotted around the forest in Mount Hiei
Buildings and Temples dotted around the forest in Mount Hiei. Sometimes to pray and sometimes a place to meditate.

I spent some time walking around, lost in the moment of my own thoughts, taking-in the serenity and calmness of the mountain when I heard the bell.

6 | The huge bell at Enryakuji Temple, Mount Hiei

The huge bell everyone queues for to ring at least once in Mount Hiei. You can hear it in the most part of the forest.
The huge bell everyone queues for to ring at least once in Mount Hiei. You can hear it in the most part of the forest.

I followed the sound and came to a huge bell where tourists were queuing-up to ring it. Every temple seems to have one of these but the bell at Enryakuji is huge, perhaps to signify its importance.

The bell has a huge wooden rod made from a log. The log is used to ring the bell. The bell is rung by a Buddhist faithful when entering a temple or when answering a call to worship. The bell symbolises wisdom and compassion which Buddhist believers and practitioners recognise as being the path to enlightenment. This particular site was very popular and to take a “tourist-free” photo was difficult!.

7 | My conclusion on Mount Hiei, Kyoto

Like I said, if you want to get away from the maddening crowd of Kyoto, Mount Hiei is the place to be. You could spend the day here and still get back to Kyoto in the evening and experience the nightlife of Gion-shiji.

In retrospect, when I left London for Osaka, I did not know of Mount Hiei. Being here, I found Mount Hiei to be an unforgettable Japan experience. It gave me an insight into Buddhism, the test of perseverance and courage that the infamous “marathon monks” endure in their one-thousand-day challenge. Walking through the peaceful forest was quite an experience for a city girl like me and I think I may have brought some of the serenity back with me.

I sincerely hope that you will visit Mount Hiei in Kyoto. Below are some useful information for you to consider that may help you make that visit.

8 | Travel tips and Useful Information

Mount Hiei is situated on the hills, northeast of Kyoto, on the border between Kyoto and Shiga Prefecture, Kyoto. It is at 850 metres (2500 feet) in elevation and at its summit, offers spectacular views over Old Kyoto and Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan. There are three ways to get to Mt Hiei using transportation, but it is more popular amongst hikers who can complete the hike up in a few hours – whichever way you choose to get up here, it will make a nice day trip for solo travellers, couples and families of any age.

8.1 | What route did I opt for to get up to Mount Hiei

I opted for the bus-ride up from Kyoto Station which was an hour, purely because I wanted to experience the ride. The roads were narrow but very skilfully manoeuvred by the driver. As you ascend, you will feel the coolness set in and feel your ears…and of course, you are rewarded with the picturesque views from the mountain and the valley below as you ascend. It was certainly different but good.

8.2 | Route to get back down to ground level from Mount Hiei

Sakamoto Cable car - A ride from Mount Hiei to Sakamoto Station was just 2 kilometres.
Sakamoto Cable car – A ride from Mount Hiei to Sakamoto Station was just 2 kilometres. | Image: georgina_daniel

For my return journey, I opted to take the Sakamoto Cable car to the Shiga side. This route was to the base of the mountain at Sakamoto Station which was the nearest station to my next destination. A visit to Lake Biwa was next on my itinerary. This two-kilometres, 11-minute journey proved to be well-worth the money as it offered an awesome view directly over Lake Biwa and an opportunity to stroll through the town of Sakamoto.

View of Lake Biwa from the cable car ride down to Sakamoto
View of Lake Biwa from the cable car ride down to Sakamoto | Image: georgina_daniel

9 | Other places to visit in Mount Hiei

There are other places which you may wish to visit in Mount Hiei. Below are some that may be of interest to you. I did not visit these places as I wanted to spend more time in the woods and make it to Lake Biwa for the sunset

9.1 | The Garden Museum, Hiei

This garden is about 1.7 hectares and is based on French impressionism and has about 100,000 blooms each year.

Entry: 1030 Yen

Opening times: 10:00 – 17:30 (Open later during summer and at night during summer weekends).

URL: http://www.garden-museum-hiei.co.jp/

9.2 | Tsukuri Soba

This soba restaurant is opened from 09:30 to 16:00

10 | Useful Information

  • Take a light jacket with you as the temperature drops very slightly;
  • Wear proper walking shoes or hiking boots;
  • Take a bottle of water with you and some light snacks if you wish to have a break while you are exploring.

11 | Getting to Mount Hiei: 3 routes

From Kyoto side – by Eizan Cable car and Ropeway

  • Take the Keihan Line from Kyoto Station and exit at Demachiyanagi Station, the last station/stop on the route;
  • From Demachiyanagi, ride to the summit of Mount Hiei on the Eizan Electric Railway, Eizan Cable and Eizan Ropeway;
  • The Eizan Electric Railway is a sightseeing line dotted with locations known for their harmonious balance of nature and the old capital such as Ohara, Kurama and Kibune. After about 15 minutes ride, you will arrive at Yase-Hieizanguchi Station. This part of your journey offers you with beautiful spring growth and autumn colours. There is a temple here, Ruriko-in Temple which has special openings in spring and autumn.
  • From Yase, take the Eizan Cable Car, which is another 15 minutes journey, to the top of Mount Hiei. This is one of the steepest ride in Japan. Thereafter, transfer to the ropeway which will take you all the way to the top of the 840-metre summit. The summit is about six degrees Celsius cooler than downtown Kyoto, so it may feel cold at the top. Take a light jacket with you even when you are visiting in the summer.

Fares:

Demachiyanagi Station to Yase-Hieizanguchi Station (Eizan Electric Railway):

Adults: 260 yen | Children: 130 yen

Eizan Cable Car: Adults: 540 yen | Children: 270 yen

Eizan Ropeway: Adults: 310 yen | Children: 160 yen

From the Shiga side

From Kyoto Station, take the JR Kosei Line to Hiei-Sakamoto Station;

This train journey is approximately 15 minutes. Alternatively, you may want to take the Shinkansen from Kyoto Station to Hiei-Sakamoto Station.

  • From Hiei-Sakamoto Station, it is a 15-minute walk to the lower station of the Sakamoto Cablecar, or a 5-minute bus ride;
  • The Cable car ride takes about 11 minutes;
  • From the upper station, the Todo area is about 5-10 minutes walk.

Kyoto Station to Hiei-Sakamoto Station (JR Kosei Line): Adult: 320 Yen (one-way);

Fares

Kyoto Station to Hiei-Sakamoto Station on the Shinkansen is covered by the JR Pass and you would not have to pay the 320 Yen.

Sakamoto Cable car: 860 Yen (one-way) or 1,620 Yen for a round-trip. You can purchase this ticket from a vending machine at the station.

By Bus

This route is a toll-road and there are direct buses from Kyoto Station and Sanjo Station (Keihan Line) to Hieizan’s Todo area.

  • From Kyoto Station > take Bus Line 57 that leaves from bus-stop C6. Lin-up for Mount Hiei
  • Journey time is one hour, one-way;
  • There are 4-6 buses a day;
  • Bus services do not operate between December and March.

Fares:

The one-way trip takes about one-hour and costs about 770 Yen.

12 | Opening hours

12.1 | Todo on the East:

March to November: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
December: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
January and February: 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

12.2 | Saito on the West and Yokawa Area

March to November: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
December: 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
January and February: 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

13 | Admission

You can get a combined ticket/pass to all three areas of Enryakuji Temple:

Adults: 700 yen


Was this article valuable to you in planning your visit to Mount Hiei? If so, do let me know in comments below or via the Contact form. I would love to hear from you.

.Happy Adventures!

February 2021, Update


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Escape the maddening crowd of downtown Kyoto to the dense forest of towering cedar trees and experience the indescribable natural beauty and serenity that exists here. A detailed travel guide on what to see, do and how to get to this mountain. via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/Escape the maddening crowd of downtown Kyoto to the dense forest of towering cedar trees and experience the indescribable natural beauty and serenity that exists here. A detailed travel guide on what to see, do and how to get to this mountain. via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/

How to make the best of 1 day in Uji, Kyoto

How to make the best of 1 day in Uji, Kyoto

When you travel to Kyoto, and want to experience a little of rural Japan, then head to the historically romantic city of Uji, a little gem located just twenty-minutes train ride to the south of Kyoto city. This nature filled area is home to beautiful museums, historic buildings and delicious matcha tea. You can spend either half a day or one full day exploring this beautiful ancient city. However, I shall strongly recommend that you make it a one-day visit as Uji is a destination worth visiting and spending time at.

This article gives a little background to the city of Uji and cover details on how to to make the best of one day in Uji, Kyoto. The article suggests a carefully planned itinerary and a walking route. This ideal itinerary include the 7 most popular attractions at this little gem of tourist destination which must be seen for a complete experience of Uji. An early start arriving at about 10:00 a.m should also be in the plan.

Georgina says: My itinerary here involves spending one full day in Uji, returning to Kyoto in time for supper. However, if you don’t have a full day to spare, you may want to make half-a-day trip to Uji.

About Uji, Kyoto

Uji is a historical city in the green valley of South Kyoto. It is popular for its shrines and temples in particular for its two World Heritage sites, the Byodoin Temple and the Ujigami shrine. In addition, Uji is famous for the superior quality of Matcha Green Tea and the Tale of Genji, the world’s first novel. The City has a bridge and a river named after it. A walk along this river affords you picturesque views of the mountains surrounding it, with some regarding it as one of the most romantic places in Kyoto because of its prominence in the Tale of Genji.

Uji City is easily accessible (see below: Travel tips and useful information), just a 20-minute train journey from Kyoto Station, either via the JR Line or the Keihan Line. I used the Keihan Line from Kyoto, arriving at Uji for 10:00 a.m.

As you exit the Keihan Uji Station, you will find easy signposting that directs you to the surrounding areas. A landmark to lookout for is the Ujibashi Bridge across the Uji River.

Uji-bashi Bridge and Uji River

Just south of Keihan Uji Station, you will see the Uji-bashi Bridge, which goes across the Uji River. This wood-trimmed concrete and steel was first built in 646 AD. However, it has been rebuilt numerous times since. Walk across it, and along the way, stop and look at the green hills, rushing waters and the red wooden bridges. This ancient town is well-preserved.

Uji, Kyoto: The view when you are on the Uji-bashi Bridge
Uji, Kyoto: The view when you are on the Uji-bashi Bridge | Image: georgina_daniel

The Uji-bashi Bridge is an important point because it is from here that you will access the rest of the 7 top attractions.

7 top attractions in Uji, Kyoto not to be missed | How to make the best of 1 day

The 7 top attractions in Uji which should not be missed are listed below. I have listed them in the order of my walking route so you can have an idea of what to expect when you visit and are considering how to make the best of 1 day in Uji, Kyoto.

Across the Uji-bashi Bridge, you will come to Omotesando Street.

1 | Omotesando Street (平等院表参道), Uji, Kyoto

The Omotesando Street is about 300-meter stretch approach to Byodoin Temple (more on this temple, below). This street is lined with tea shops, eateries and souvenir shops. It is famously known as the Green Tea Street of Uji. Spend some time exploring this quaint street either on your way to Byodoin Temple or on your return.

Shops along Omotesando Street, Uji, Kyoto
Shops along Omotesando Street, Uji, Kyoto | Image: georgina_daniel

There are many tea related products which you can try such as “dango” dumplings, soba noodles or ice-cream.

Loose matcha tea stored in airtight wooden boxes

Matcha tea sold in small packaging as samples

Matcha sprinkled on crushed ice.

Georgina suggests: That you explore the Omotesando street on your return walk back from Byodoin Temple. This means you can take a break for a snack or lunch before you are onward to the next stage of your journey.

2 | Byōdōin Temple (平等院), Uji, Kyoto

Byōdōin Temple is one of the two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Uji and its garden is regarded as Pure Land Paradise. 

Once you have bought your entry ticket, take the path on the left, around the lotus pond and this is what you come to …

Byodoin Temple in How to make the best of 1 day in Uji, Kyoto.
Byodoin Temple is one of the two World Heritage sites which should be on every itinerary of a visitor here: How to make the best of 1 day in Uji, Kyoto | Image: georgina_daniel

This 10th century Buddhist Temple was initially built in 998, at the height of political power of the Fujiwara clan during the Heian period (794 to 1192). It was built as a retreat villa for Fujiwara no Michinaga, a powerful politician. The architecture of this temple is spectacularly beautiful and speaks volume. 

However, Michinaga’s son, Yorimichi, turned it into a Temple and ordered the construction of the Phoenix Hall which was built in 1053. The building holds a central hall, two long corridors and is home to a three-meter high statue of Amida Buddha.

Amida Buddha is a wooden statue, covered in gold foil, carved by Jocho Busshi, a Heian period sculptor. His speciality was to join multiple pieces of blocks of wood to carve and join it to form a single piece or figure.

What remains today of this temple is this Phoenix Hall which is home to the soaring shining statue in the midst of heavenly beings playing instruments…it is a treasure well-worth a visit at least once!

The Phoenix Hall is featured on the flip-side of the Japanese Ten yen coin.

How to make the best of 1 day in Uji, Kyoto: The serenity of this place...you simply got to be here to experience it at Byodoin Temple,
Uji, Kyoto: The serenity of this place…you simply got to be here to experience it at Byodoin Temple | Image: georgina_daniel
Side view of Byodoin Temple
Side view of Byodoin Temple, Uji Kyoto | Image: georgina_daniel

When visiting the Byodoin Temple, take the path around the Hall, and you will come to the museum where you can immerse in its history. One part of the museum holds original artefacts from the temple and the other is almost like walking into a heavenly whirl! Here, dancing celestial beings, child musicians and birds bearing flowers are depicted in rich, vibrant colours.

NB: Cameras were not allowed, so I do not have any pictures to show here.

2.1 | Travel tips and Useful information on Byodoin Temple, Uji

Byodoin Temple & the Museum

Tickets are 600 Yen for both

Phoenix Hall

To visit the Phoenix Hall, it is an additional 300 Yen. You purchase this ticket from a ticket booth within the grounds near the temple. Visits are timed every 20 minutes, so your ticket will have a time printed on it.

Return to the queuing point at least 5-minutes before the ticketed time. A guide will lead the group into the hall for a talk about the building. The talk is in Japanese, no audio guides available. It is a narrow hallway and no photographs are allowed.

Even if you do not understand Japanese, it is still worth paying the extra to view the statue and its interior at least once in your lifetime, after-all you are there already 😊

Opening times:

08:30 to 17:30

Museum: 09:00 to 17:00

Last entry is  15-minutes before closing

Open all year round.

Georgina suggests: **Allow yourself at least an hour in your itinerary – to walk around and enjoy the splendid garden. However, if you are visiting the Phoenix Hall, tickets are timed and you need to allow yourself more time in your plans.

Alternatively, you may wish to experience the Byodoin Temple through a good value for money private tour.

Uplifting Kyoto: Private tour of Ujis Tea and Spirituality

In any case, if you are not pressed for time, spend a few extra moments just to relax and take in the serenity of the garden, the lotus pond and the magnificent Temple.

Byodoin Temple, Uji, Kyoto: Resting Area
Byodoin Temple, Uji, Kyoto: Resting Area | Image: georgina_daniel

3 | Uji Tea in Uji, Kyoto

Uji is famous for its green tea or its Matcha Green Tea.

From a historical perspective, Uji Tea or Green Tea was a popular drink amongst the nobleman and priests in Japan. However, it is ironic that green tea was virtually unheard of in Japan when it first arrived from China in the 700s. It was during the Kamakura period, between 1192 and 1333, that green tea leaves imported from China was cultivated in Uji. This led to popularity amongst the noblemen and priests.

The benefits of green tea, its cultivation and preparation was introduced in a book written by a Zen priest, Eisei. Eisei brought Zen Buddhism to Japan from China, hence, bestowing Uji the reputation of producing superior quality green tea as it was the first place to cultivate green tea.

To experience an authentic and traditional Japanese tea ceremony, go over to Taihoan.

3.1 | Tea House in Uji, Kyoto

A short walk from Byodoin Temple, at the southern bank of Uji River, you will find Taihoan, a public tea house. It offers visitors a unique opportunity to participate in an authentic tea ceremony. It serves matcha tea (powdered green tea) in a traditional tea-house setting and the correct tea ceremony etiquette.

Location of Taihoan Tea House on the southern bank of Uji River, Uji, Kyoto
Location of Taihoan Tea House on the southern bank of Uji River, Uji, Kyoto

You may wonder what makes Japanese Green Tea so special? Get all your answers and more whilst exploring Uji’s history in a private tour AND/OR take a rickshaw tour through Uji, to revered traditional tea shops and centuries-old historical sites with a guide.

Learn more and Book your tour by navigating via the links below:

4 | Ujigami Shrine and the Uji Shrine (宇治上神社)

The Ujigami Shrine is believed to be constructed as early as 1060 during the Heian period and is the 2nd of the two UNESCO World Heritage sites in Uji. It is the guardian shrine to Byodoin Temple. Ujigami shrine is a Shinto shrine and it’s architecture is very simple. The Honden or the main hall is built in the nagare-zukuri architectural style, which is a curved assymetrical roof, extending more on the side of the main entrance than on the opposite side. This design is such to provide shelter to the worshippers.

Entrance to Ujigami Shrine, Uji, Kyoto
A torii gate symbolising entrance to Ujigami Shrine, Uji, Kyoto | Image: georgina_daniel

About 100m south of Ujigami shrine is the Uji shrine, also in the simple nagare-zukuri architectural style.

Entrance to Uji Shrine, Uji, Kyoto
Entrance to Uji Shrine, Uji, Kyoto | Image: georgina_daniel

4.1 | Travel tips and Useful information on Ujigami and Uji Shrines in Uji, Kyoto

Opening hours: 09:00 to 16:30

Open all year round

Admission is FREE

Please give yourself anything between 15 to 30 minutes. It is really quiet and peaceful here. On my visit, I observed a painter sketching the beautiful view from the top of the stairs looking ahead. It was rather pretty.

4.2 | Getting to Ujigami Shrine

Location of Ujigami Shrine and Uji Shrine_1
Location of Ujigami Shrine and Uji Shrine

Ujigami Shrine is on the north of Uji River, close to the Tale of Genji Museum

JR Line

Takes 15 minutes to walk from JR Uji Station

Keihan Line

Takes 10 minutes to walk from Keihan Uji Line

By foot

It is about 10 to 15 minutes (depends how distracted you get from the enchanting scenery around you) from Byodoin Temple, across the river via a small island connected by bridges.

5. Uji’s Riverbank attractions, Uji, Kyoto

Uji’s riverbank attractions are within pleasant strolling distance.

5.1 | Asagiri-bashi Bridge – A beautiful bridge that links-up both sides of the riverbank and the park.

The Asagiri-bashi Bridge links-up both banks of the Uji River., Uji, Kyoto
The Asagiri-bashi Bridge links-up both banks of the Uji River, Uji, Kyoto | Image: georgina_daniel

5.2 | Ukifune and Prince Niou-no-Miya

Asagiri-bashi Bridge and the statue of Ukifune and Prince Niou-no-Miya afloat on the Ujigawa River
Asagiri-bashi Bridge and the statue of Ukifune and Prince Niou-no-Miya afloat on the Ujigawa River | Image: georgina_daniel

This is a statue dedicated to the final ten chapters of the The Tale of Genji, which takes place in Uji. Some scenes depicts the maiden Ukifune (which means “floating boat”) who was caught-up in a bitter love rivalry between Prince Niou-no-Miya and Genji’s son, Kaoru. Ukifune eventually throws herself into the Uji-gawa River.

5.3 | Travel tips and Useful information on Uji’s Riverbank, Uji, Kyoto

Uji Bridge is a 5-10 minute walk north of JR Uji Station

NB: Find all the information on the Tale of Genji Museum, on their official website here.

6 | Hashidera Temple – Ho-join

Hashidera, protector of Uji Bridge was built in 604 by Hata no Kawakatsu on the instructions of Prince Shotoku (574-622 AD)

The grounds of Hashidera Temple, Uji, Kyoto
The grounds of Hashidera Temple, Uji, Kyoto | Image: georgina_daniel

6.1 | Getting to Hashidera Temple, Uji

Hashidera Temple is on the east bank of the Uji River, just 5 minutes walk from Ujigami Shrine.

7 | Mampuku-ji Temple (萬福寺), Uji, Kyoto

Mampukuji Temple was the head temple of Zen Obaku sect and was founded in 1661 by Ingen, a Chinese monk. Ingen was the founder of Zen Buddhism and was responsible for importing the Zen Obaku sect, the most recent form of Zen Buddhism from China into Japan. The architecture is distinctively Chinese, incorporating contemporary designs of the Ming Dynasty. It is profoundly peaceful and quiet here.

The main entrance to Mampuku-ji Temple , Uji, Kyoto
The main entrance to Mampuku-ji Temple , Uji, Kyoto | Image: georgina_daniel

The temple grounds are extensive, set out as a courtyard, connected by stone paved path. It has beautiful Zen gardens surrounded by raked pebbles. There were not many people here when I arrived and gave me an opportunity to get “lost” in the extensive space!

Stoned footpath leads to Mampukuji Temple
Stoned footpath lines the entrance to the Mampuku-ji Temple | Image: georgina_daniel
Picture of the extensive grounds of Mampuku-ji Temple
Picture of the extensive grounds of Mampuku-ji Temple

Mampuku-ji is popular for Shojin Ryori, a sophisticated Buddhist cuisine. It is the traditional dining style of Buddhist monks in Japan and became associated with Zen Buddhism in the 13th century. If you want to experience this traditional dining, you need to book in advance.

7.1 | Travel tips and Useful information on Mampukuji Temple, Uji, Kyoto

Opening times: 09:00 to 17:00

Last entry at 16:30

Admission: 500 Yen

Georgina suggests: The grounds of this temple is huge, so getting here just before 16:30 will not really be worth your while. Half-an-hour is too short. You may need at least an hour minimum but anything more will be great.

7.2 | Getting to Mampukuji Temple, Uji

JR Line

Mampukuji is about five minutes from Obaku Station on the JR Nara Line.

Keihan Railways

Take the Keihan Line from Kyoto, Gion-Shijo Station to Keihan Obaku Station. The one way trip takes about 20 minutes, costs around 310 Yen. It requires a transfer of trains at Chushojima Station. Trains run every 5 minutes between Keihan Obaku and Uji Stations, and its 150 yen). Mampukuji is 10 minutes walk from Keihan Obaku Station.

You can also take the local trains between Kyoto and Obaku but these trains stops frequently, at every station and takes about half-an hour.

On foot

Alternatively, you can walk to Mampukuji in 30-40 minutes from Uji Bridge.

Alternatively, you could join a value for money guided tours and learn all about Uji and wider Kyoto.

My final thoughts

Amongst the seven attractions I visited in Uji in one day, I spent the longest time at the Byodoin Temple and then really enjoyed the walk along Uji’s Riverbank. I hope this itinerary will help you make the best of 1 day in Uji, Kyoto. as well.

Happy exploring Uji, the historic romantic ancient town in Kyoto,

Georgina xx

February 2021, Update


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Discover the origins of Matcha green tea in Japan and explore the picturesque and romantic City of Uji, in the valleys of Kyoto. A DIY guide with detailed useful information on what to see, do and how to get to each spot. via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/Discover the origins of Matcha green tea in Japan and explore the picturesque and romantic City of Uji, in the valleys of Kyoto. A DIY guide with detailed useful information on what to see, do and how to get to each spot. via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/

What to do in Kuala Lumpur – The Unmissable Top 10 Experiences

Kuala Lumpur – A unique flavour of Asia

What to do in Kuala Lumpur – The Unmissable Top 10 Experiences

The Top 10 in What to see, do and experience in Kuala Lumpur was a difficult selection to make because there are so many more sights which also warrants a visit. My decision rested upon selecting experiences that will give my readers a flavour of Malaysian multi-ethnic multi-cultural society, it’s rich Islamic heritage, and a unique history that was influenced by the British Empire.

Kuala Lumpur, literally translates to “muddy confluence” originated from the fact that the city was founded near where the rivers of Klang and Gombak intersect. Today, you can see this “confluence” just behind Merdeka Square. As the capital city of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur boasts gleaming skyscrapers, a blend of modern and colonial architecture, warm, welcoming, charming locals, and a myriad of natural attractions. Divided into districts, the City’s main hub is the Golden Triangle – Bukit Bintang, KLCC and Chinatown.

An Introduction to Diversity and Culture in Malaysia

Having grown up in Malaysia prior to moving to the UK, I know first hand the culture of this nation. Malaysia’s rich culture is reflected by each ethnic group who preserve and maintain their unique cultural identities yet live together respecting the differences that exist between them. It is the same rich culture and its heritage that dictates the cuisines and gastronomy in Malaysia.

I grew up experiencing one of the most flavourful cuisines in the world. A country which is often referred to as “the crossroads of Asia”, Malaysian cooking uses ingredients and cooking styles which reflects a fusion of Indian, Chinese, Indonesian and Thai.

Although, they are not spicy-hot, they are full of flavour and has contributed to me having an adventurous palate when it comes to culinary delights and the mouth-watering dishes I get to enjoy during my travels.

In my selection of places to visit, I have suggested a couple of activities where you can experience the fusion and flavourful cuisines of my homeland.

A brief background to Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia. Malaysia is located in South East Asia and consists of thirteen states and three federal territories, separated by South China Sea into Peninsula Malaysia and East Malaysia. It is home to over 30 million and is the 44th most populous country. Tanjung Piai in Malaysia is the southernmost point of continental Eurasia. Malaysia is one of seventeen megadiverse countries, home to large numbers of endemic species.

As mentioned, Malaysia is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. About half the population is ethnically Malay. The other half consist of Malaysian Chinese, Malaysian Indians and indigenous peoples. Each play a large and influential role in Malaysian politics. The government system is modelled on the UK parliamentary system and the legal system is based on common law.

On religion – Islam is recognised as Malaysia’s established religion. The constitution grants freedom of religion to non-Muslims.

Being multi-ethnic and multi-cultural means Malaysia is also multilingual. The official language here is Malay, also referred to as Bahasa Melayu. English is an active second. As a visitor, you need not worry about language barrier as Kuala Lumpur is well versed with tourists and almost everyone in the touristy places speak and/or understand English.

If you are visiting Kuala Lumpur for longer than a day or two, you may want to consider purchasing a City Pass. There is no doubt that the City Pass is great value for money where you can skip the line, and visit attractions at a discounted price – a huge saving on time and money. However long you choose to spend your time in Kuala Lumpur, make the best of it by ensuring you experience the following unmissable top ten activities.

The Unmissable Top 10 Experiences in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The following list of top 10 in Kuala Lumpur are listed in no particular order. They are all popular tourist attractions and should top any itinerary if you are visiting Malaysia.

[KLCC – Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre]

1 | Petronas Twin Towers, KLCC, Kuala Lumpur

Petronas Twin Towers, KLCC Malaysia
Petronas Twin Towers, KLCC, Malaysia

Petronas Twin Towers is Kuala Lumpur’s crown jewel and dominates the City’s skyline. The Twin Towers are an iconic landmark and are the tallest twin towers in the world. The postmodern architecture and style of a pair of glass-and-steel-clad skyscrapers uniquely designed with Islamic motifs stands at 451.9 metres. This majestic eighty-eight storey twin structure offer a public sky-bridge connecting the two towers and an observation deck. A visit to this iconic structure is highly recommended.

This is a popular attraction and prior booking is advisable. Skip the line and buy your tickets now. Click on the links below to find out more on what the ticket includes and not.

Skip-the-Line Petronas Towers Tickets with Hotel Delivery

2 | A stroll in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur

Just below the Petronas Twin Towers, is an area of much needed green space in the city of Kuala Lumpur – KLCC Park. It is a specially designed park that stretches 20 hectares. It has jogging and walking trails, a large lake and fountain features. No visit to Kuala Lumpur is quite complete without a visit to this peaceful haven in the middle of the City.

3 | Suria, KLCC, Kuala Lumpur

No visit to Kuala Lumpur is complete without a shopping experience in the heart of the City. Kuala Lumpur is neither New York nor London but the shopping complexes here will definitely give the larger cities a run for their money.

Suria KLCC is a six storey shopping complex that sits within the gigantic Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre that is also home to the Petronas Twin Tower. There are varieties of high-end fashionable labels such as Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, cinemas and food courts. If you are looking for labels, this is the place to be – to shop till you drop!

See what’s more is offered by Suria KLCC, here

3 | Menara KL Tower

The KL Tower or officially known as Menara KL is the seventh tallest structure in the world and the tallest in South East Asia. It stands at 421 metres, atop Bukit Nanas, surrounded by the oldest forest reserve in the country, Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve. The forest houses age-old trees as well as flora and fauna indigenous to Malaysia’s tropical climate. 

KL Tower
Menara KL, Malaysia

Menara KL has been outshone by the Petronas Twin Towers but remains an important architectural marker. A visit to the viewing deck here will give you spectacular views of the city. The viewing deck is at least 100 metres higher than the Petronas Tower’s Skybridge, so it’s worth a visit. The visitor’s deck is also the highest point of the city that is open to the public. Popular times are at dusk as you witness the sun set over the city’s skyline.

TTS tip: Have a meal or enjoy high tea with spectacuar views over Kuala Lumpur’s skyline at the famous revolving restaurant, Atmosphere 360. Book Early to avoid disappointment.

The Tower is another unique architecture which reflects Malaysia’s vibrant Islamic heritage. with Arabic scripts, Islamic tiles, and archetypal Islamic floral and abstract patterns.

There are a couple of Best Seller choices here for you to choose from should you decide to visit this iconic landmark for a memorable experience. Highly recommended that you purchase your tickets before the start of your vacation as some of these activities may be sold out.

Buy our Bestseller – A combined ticket giving you access to the Observation Deck + A Buffet at the infamous revolving restaurant serving local cuisines. Find out what it includes and what it does not with free cancellation up to 24 hours before activity starts.

Menara KL Observation Deck + Buffet at revolving restaurant + night tour

Menara KL Tower Information:

Address: Jalan Puncak, Off Jalan P. Ramlee, Kuala Lumpur City Centre

Opening Hours: Daily 09:00 – 22:00

5 | Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur

At the heart of Kuala Lumpur, is the colourful and vibrant Chinatown, a part of the City that never sleeps. Chinatown is based in Petaling Street, and is deeply immersed in oriental culture, history and heritage. Undoubtedly, it is one of the most popular tourist spots.

Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Chinatown is a bargain-hunter’s paradise – you will find all sorts here, from Chinese medicine shops to imitation goods of high brands such as Chanel, Rolex Yves Saint Laurent and many more. Just remember not to pay the asking price!

At dusk, Chinatown turns into a vibrant market stall, offering all kinds of goods at very low prices. It’s a kind of nightlife that is quite different to other parts of the country. More happens here at night than during the day.

TTS suggests: I would highly recommend a visit to Chinatown, both during the day and at night as it offers two differing experiences for you.

Chinatown is practically filled with Chinese restaurants and hawker stalls! You will find all sorts of delicacies from steamed buns to seafood, barbecued meats, steamboats, stir-fries and delicacies which are unique to this particular Chinatown than anywhere else.

The best thing about this part of Chinatown is that it is open till late, until the wee hours of the morning.

You might want to take advantage of the following Best Sellers and experience the authentic cuisines of Malaysian culture.

6 | Central Market, Kuala Lumpur

A short walk from Petaling Street, along Jalan Hang Kasturi, is the Central Market, a cultural landmark and a designated World Heritage Site. It is one of the familiar landmarks for tourists and boasts local artistic community of handcrafts, boutiques and souvenir stalls. These are authentic local crafts, mostly handmade and a great selection of uniquely designed Malaysian batik.

One thing to note when visiting the Central Market is the “zoning” of the market. The Market is divided into different zones and each is distinctive by race/culture. The reason for this zoning is to let visitors experience and get an insight into the diverse culture of Malaysians.

Central Market, Kuala Lumpur Information:

Address: No. 10, 1st-3rd floor, Jalan Hang Kasturi

Opening Hours: Daily, 10:00 – 22:00

7 | Alor Street (Jalan Alor), Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur

For the best hawker food experience, head to the cultural heart of Kuala Lumpur’s local cuisines, Alor Street. You will find it just behind Jalan Bukit Bintang and a short walk away from Changkat Bukit Bintang. Alor Street is a food haven! The variety of food available is amazing, from barbecued meats to desserts and most of these dishes cannot be found in restaurants – even if they are, they are not as tasty.  

Jalan Alor serves you not just authentic tasty food but also traditional charm of bright fluorescent signage lighting, mini red Chinese lanterns, plastic tables and chairs spilling out onto the road and food served on plastic plates. The place is loud and vibrant with hawkers furiously fanning grills of chicken and beef on skewers, the clanging of metal pans, frying woks, the thick air with charcoal smoke and the seemingly endless row of stalls on a five-foot walkway – all adds to a memorable experience of Kuala Lumpur not to be missed!

Although Jalan Alor is popular, it is in a hidden spot and not many tourists find this location easily. From the Bukit Bintang monorail stop, you can head north along Jalan Bukit Bintang and Jalan Alor is about a minute’s walk.

8 | Batu Caves, just outside of Kuala Lumpur

Batu Caves is located just a stone’s throw away from Kuala Lumpur, about 13 km north of City Centre. It is a 400 million-year old limestone hill and is home to a 100 year old temple carved within it. The caves and temples are Hindu shrines and is a focal point of pilgrimage for the many Hindu residents of Malaysia. In particular, it is a focal point of the annual Hindu festival of Thaipusam.

42.7 metres high gold painted statue of Muruga stands at the foot of 272 steps that leads to the temples within the limestone hill, Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur
42.7 metres high gold painted statue of Muruga stands at the foot of 272 steps that leads to the temples within the limestone hill, Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Temples carved into the limestone at Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Temples carved into the limestone at Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Thaipusam is an annual Hindu celebration by the Tamil people. Devotees of the Hindu god Subramaniam pay homage by carrying “kavadis”. “Kavadis” are colourful framework, decorated with peacock feathers and flowers carried on the devotees shoulders or head. Some of these “kavadis” can weigh up to 100 kilos. These devotees also have various metal hooks and skewers pierced through their skin, cheeks and tongue. Some walk on a short trail of fire barefooted. It is a colourful celebration and one that attracts up to a million visitors, making it one of the largest celebrations in the world.

Date for the celebration of Thaipusam in 2021 is January 28. At time of update, February 2021, there are no dates available for 2022.

Read more on Thaipusam here.

Outside of Thaipusam celebration, visitors can marvel at the huge 42.7 metres high gold painted statue of Muruga standing at the base of the 272 steps leading to the temple within the caves. Explore the limestone cliffs that are dotted with caves and carved temples such as Cathedral Cave, Dark Cave, Ramayana Cave and Cave Villa.

While exploring, be mindful of the cave-dwelling bats. Keep your belongings close as the wild monkeys that inhabit the area will not hesitate to help themselves to it!

To get to Batu Caves seamlessly from Kuala Lumpur and to experience one of the major attractions in Malaysia, book one of the Best Seller tours below. For me, these are such great value for money tours and I am certain Batu Caves will not disappoint. Click on link to find out more on what it includes and does not!

Batu Caves Kuala Lumpur Information:

Opening Hours: Daily, 06:00 – 21:00

Address: Batu Caves, Sri Subramaniam Temple, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

How to get there: Located 13km north of Kuala Lumpur

Public transport: Take Intrakota bus No 11D from the Central Market or the Cityliner bus No 69 at Jalan Pudu to get to Batu Caves. Taxis are also available anywhere around the city.

9 | Sultan Abdul Samad Building, Kuala Lumpur

Sultan Abdul Samad Building is one of Kuala Lumpur’s famous landmark which was originally built for the colonial British administration in 1897. Today, it is home to the offices of the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture of Malaysia. It is conveniently located next to Kuala Lumpur Railway Station. Despite the changing skyline of Kuala Lumpur, Sultan Abdul Samad Building remains a popular tourist attraction.

sultan abdul samad building unmissable top 10 in kuala lumpur
Sultan Abdul Samad Building, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

It’s attraction features a construction entirely of brick, strong gothic, western and an earliest Moorish-style architecture. Beautiful arches, curved colonnades and a 41.2 metres clock tower makes this Building a “must visit” destination when visiting Kuala Lumpur.

Take a City Tour and learn all about the Old and New Kuala Lumpur, Click on link to find more.

Kuala Lumpur: Half-Day City Tour

10 | Sunway Lagoon Theme Park, Petaling Jaya

Sunway Lagoon, Petaling Jaya, Kuala Lumpur.
Early morning at Sunway Lagoon, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

Sunway Lagoon Theme Park is located in Petaling Jaya, about 15km southwest of the Kuala Lumpur city centre. It’s slogan, “Come Feel the Fun” and visitors can truly experience the fun this theme park offers – from whirl and twirl waterslides to man made surf beaches, a 360 degree revolving pirate ship and places to relax to grab a bite plus a zoo! Sunway Lagoon sits in an 80 acre site and has activities to suit everyone!

Kuala Lumpur: Sunway Lagoon Ticket & 1-Way Transfer

Sunway Lagoon Theme Park, Petaling Jaya Information:

Opening Hours: Daily 10:00 – 18:00

Location: Sunway Resort Hotel & Spa

Address: 3, Jalan PJS 11/11, Bandar Sunway, Petaling Jaya

You may also wish to consider these other attractions in Kuala Lumpur

Aquaria KLCC – A state of the art aquarium located beneath the convention centre. Read more here

Kuala Lumpur Railway Station – No longer a railway station but a museum. It is now home to antique fire engines and steam trains. For me, it was the architecture that won my heart, somewhat fairy-tale, a mix of European and Asian built around 1886.

Address: Kampung Attap, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Royal Selangor is somewhat a hidden gem. Founded in 1885, a visit here and you will be welcomed with a free guided tour and a journey through its history.

Kuala Lumpur Butterfly Park – If you are looking to have a slow day, do nothing else than head over to the Butterfly Park and marvel at over 120 species of colourful butterflies with educational information. This attraction is set within a modelled jungle-forest experience with walkways, lakes and ponds.

Take a look at the following tours to enhance your experiences in Kuala Lumpur

Private Magical View With Petronas Tower & Cultural Dinner

From Kuala Lumpur: Private Fireflies Tour and Seafood Dinner

From Kuala Lumpur: Batu Caves and Little India Private Tour

Day Trips from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Genting Highlands and Batu Caves Day Trip

Full-Day Trip to Historical Malacca

Taman Negara National Park Overnight Tour


Ready to book your trip?

Take a look at the following 6 Steps and the resources page to design your vacation your way for a stress free trip.

6 steps to stress free vacation
Resources

Final say…

Malaysia represents a unique flavour of Asia – its colours, the science-fiction like sky-scrapers, ancient Thaipusam celebrations, the dignified architecture and cling-clang of metal pans accompanied by thick air of charcoal smoke will all paint a kaleidoscope of memories of traditions, religions and bright smiling faces. Enjoy this wonderful country!

As always, I am more than happy to answer any of your questions. Drop me a question via my Contact page here.

Happy discovering Malaysia!

Georgina xx


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what to do in kuala lumpur
what to do in kuala lumpur

A Simple Introduction to Kuala Lumpur and a list of 10 experiences represents a unique flavour of Asia. It's gleaming sky-scrapers, ancient religious celebrations, the dignified architecture, the cling-clang of metal pans accompanied by the thick air of charcoal smoke plus the welcoming nature of its people will all paint a kaleidoscope of memories for you to take away. via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/A Simple Introduction to Kuala Lumpur and a list of 10 experiences represents a unique flavour of Asia. It's gleaming sky-scrapers, ancient religious celebrations, the dignified architecture, the cling-clang of metal pans accompanied by the thick air of charcoal smoke plus the welcoming nature of its people will all paint a kaleidoscope of memories for you to take away. via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/

When is the best time to go to Japan?

Best time to go to Japan

A bi-monthly weather guide | What to Expect | Events/Festivals | National Holidays | Clothing Guide to support your travel plans

From spring blossoms to autumn leaves and winter festivals, Japan is a country that can be visited at anytime of the year. Typically, late spring, March – May and late autumn, September to November is ideal as the temperature is mild and rainfall is low. December and January are the driest months with January and February being the coldest in Japan. However, to pick the best time to go to Japan will depend very much on what you want to see, do, and experience in this Land of the Rising Sun.

When planning a visit to go to Japan, note that although Japan has all four seasons, it also has a rainy season and a typhoon season. Japan’s weather changes dramatically from one month to another and from one region to another. Given that the Japanese archipelago stretches 3000 kilometres (1800 miles) from north to south, the changes from region to region can be quite drastic even within the same season.

To support your travel plans to Japan, here is a complete and detailed bi-monthly guide for you to use. This guide includes Japan’s national holidays calendar for you to peruse, tips on what to pack and festivals/events to look forward to.

January/February | Best time to go to Japan

Temperatures:

January: High 9.6℃ (49.2°F)/ Low 1.8℃ (35.1°F)

February: High 10.3℃ (50.3°F)/ Low 2.7℃ (36.9°F)

What to expect in January and February

January and February are the coldest months of the year in Japan and sees the ground covered with a blanket of snow. Northern regions of Japan such as Hokkaido sees a thick blanket of snow and welcomes winter sports enthusiasts. A perfect time to hit the ski slopes in northern Japan. These months are the perfect time to see the snow monkeys in Nagano as well.

Snow-monkeys, Nagano, Japan | Best time to go to Japan
Snow monkeys in Nagano, Japan

During these winter months, in cities like Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima located in the middle part of Japan, the Honshu island, get lighter snow. Days are short during winter but January has been recorded to be the sunniest in Tokyo due to little or no rain or snow.

February marks the second coldest month in Japan and people are often indoors or some may indulge in winter sports. February also kicks off the diving season in Japan with sea turtles, sharks, seahorses and manatees can be spotted easily during this season.

As for notable events and festivals, February sees the popular Sapporo Snow Festival.

Why you should visit in January/February

Winter months of January and February are one of the best time to go to Japan as it presents one of the best picturesque landscape. Mountains covered in snow. Still temples and castles covered in snow and drip in icicles. Lit-up snow-covered stone lanterns flicker in the dark to pave the path to the shrines. So peaceful, so serene.

Kinkakuji in Winter, Kyoto, Japan | Best time to go to Japan